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HSE on alert as nursing home flu claims its seventh victim

THE HSE is continuing to monitor a nursing home today after a seventh resident there died from a flu outbreak.

The elderly patient at Nazareth House, Fahan, was previously diagnosed with influenza A (H3) and passed away at Letterkenny General Hospita, the HSE has confirmed.

This brings the total number of deaths from the strain to seven, after six lives were claimed between March 22 and April 2, all aged in their 80s and 90s.

It is understood that four of the previous six who died had been vaccinated against the flu, but it was not clear whether the latest victim had been vaccinated.

The vaccination reduces flu-related hospitalisation by 50pc-60pc and flu-related deaths by 70pc-80pc -- however, authorities have noted that the strain had changed slightly and as a result did not fit with the A (H3) component of the seasonal influenza vaccine. HSE staff are said to be closely monitoring the situation and residents at the home near Buncrana, which is run by the Sisters of Nazareth, have received anti-viral treatments.

It is reported that up to 14 residents in the care home have influenza and they have been segregated from other residents.

No other patients have been diagnosed with the condition since April 4.

In a statement, the HSE said: "All residents in the nursing home are currently receiving either active or preventative treatment.

"The HSE North West Public Health team, including medical doctors, nurses and surveillance scientists, continues to closely manage and monitor the situation."

The health executive also reiterated its advice that while flu was usually a relatively mild infection, it could be a very serious illness among the elderly and that people should be aware of the simple measures taken to reduce the risk of infection.

It added that any visitors to any nursing homes should ensure their vaccinations are up to date. Junior minister Kathleen Lynch, who is responsible for the elderly, has hit out at the delays in informing the health authorities about the deaths. It is understood the HSE was not informed of the difficulties at Nazareth House until five people had died.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly is expected to order a full inquiry into the deaths at the home that has enjoyed a very good reputation.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, an elderly female resident died at the nursing home last week, but the HSE confirmed it was not linked to the current outbreak.